Few artists have had an influence on music than the way Kanye West has on rap. The Chicago native is tied for the most Grammy awards ever by a rap artist with legendary rapper Jay-Z, and has sold millions and millions of copies of his albums and records. However, in more recent years, West has been known for his role in pop culture. Most prominently he married reality TV star Kim Kardashian, and additionally he has developed a controversial presence on the social media platforms Twitter and Instagram. From commentary on various political issues in response to critics and fellow rappers to promotion of his Yeezy brand, West’s towering social media presence is undeniable. With that said, West uses his social media presence primarily for sparking political controversy, promoting his products, and sharing details of his own personal life.
Kanye West on Twitter
West’s Twitter activity is the main reason he’s such a controversial figure in today’s times. One major use of his Twitter account is to express his political opinions. Amid the Black Lives Matter movement and the Colin Kaepernick NFL protests, many rappers have voiced their displeasure with the institutionalized racism they see and denounced President Donald Trump as a racist. West, however, praised Trump in several tweets, including calling him “[his] brother” (Abramson, 2018). Trump heavily criticized BLM and Kaepernick in the past, likely why his approval rating among African Americans is at 3% (Abramson, 2018), and why the support from West, an African American, is so controversial. The admiration was reciprocated when Trump responded in a tweet reading “Thank you Kanye, very cool!” (Abramson, 2018), further garnering displeasure for West among the African American community. Another controversial idea West brought up on Twitter was when he suggested in a tweet that “we abolish the 13th amendment” (Flynn, 2018). Considering that the 13th amendment is the amendment that abolished slavery after the Civil War, many Americans– most prominently African Americans– were outraged at this sentiment coming from such a well known African American figure. Although it was later speculated that West was referring to the Exception Clause, which “literally allowed slavery and involuntary servitude to continue across the country, on plantations and within the barbed-wire fences of prisons” (Flynn, 2018), the strong deviant stance on a highly sensitive topic rubbed many the wrong way, nonetheless. West’s second major use of Twitter is to promote products from his brand, Yeezy. Recently, West announced on Twitter that he would be developing “his first-ever Yeezy basketball sneaker on the feet of Adidas athletes during the upcoming NBA season” (DePaula, 2018). By projecting this message to his tens of millions of Twitter followers, West is mass marketing his product to consumers who would be more likely to purchase his product, considering they chose to follow him on Twitter. West also announced that “the Yeezy’s will be made in America” (DePaula, 2018) as an additional marketing strategy to his followers, the majority of whom are American.
Kanye West on Instagram
On Instagram, Kanye West offers a different presence than he does Twitter. Unlike his Twitter usage, Kanye’s instagram activity is less political and is more focused on his personal life. In a stream of several video posts on Instagram, Kanye responded to several public figures who he felt wronged him. These figures included Drake and Nick Cannon, and his grudges with both of them centered around a lyric in Drake’s song “In My Feelings”, which possibly insinuated that Drake had sex with Kanye’s wife, Kim Kardashian. In an interview, Cannon, who previously dated Kardashian, suggested that the lyric did indeed mean that Drake and Kardashian had an affair. West responded in the Instagram video, telling Cannon to not “be making no suggestions like nobody f***ed [his] wife” (Vultaggio, 2018). Later in the video, West took aim at Drake, saying that the lyric “don’t sit well with [his] spirit” (Vultaggio, 2018). Shortly after the posts, “West’s videos garnered more than 270,000 views and thousands of comments” (Vultaggio, 2018). In stark contrast to West’s Twitter activity, his Instagram activity shows a more personal and relatable side of him, which is likely why the Instagram videos were more well received by the general public than his tweets. However, similarly to Twitter, West promotes his Yeezy products on Instagram as well. In an attempt to reach a different audience than is reached by Twitter, West advertised the Yeezy basketball shoes on his Instagram feed recently, as well as several other products.
The Future for Kanye on Social Media
Interestingly, West recently deleted both his Twitter and Instagram accounts, the second time in eighteen months he has done so. There is speculation that the action came in the wake of his appearance on NBC’s “Saturday Night Live”, where “he donned a red “Make America Great Again” hat and launched into a rambling rant in defense of President Donald Trump” (Willis, 2018), sparking backlash from many in pop culture. Although West may be stepping away from social media for the time being, the effects of his social media activity are still widely felt. Between his bold political comments, personal life statements and Yeezy advertisements, West’s presence on social media, deleted or not, looms large in today’s culture.
Abramson, A. (2018, April 25). Kanye West Calls Supports Donald Trump in Series of Tweets. Retrieved from http://time.com/5254664/kanye-west-supports-donald-trump-twitter/
DePaula, N. (2018, October 02). Kanye West’s first Adidas Yeezy basketball shoe would be banned, sources say. Retrieved from http://www.espn.com/nba/story/_/id/24863891/kanye-west-adidas-yeezy-basketball-shoe-likely-banned-reflective-detail
Flynn, M. (2018, October 01). Kanye West’s baffling 13th Amendment Twitter outburst: Maybe not so baffling after all. Retrieved from https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/morning-mix/wp/2018/10/01/kanye-wests-baffling-13th-amendment-twitter-outburst-maybe-not-so-baffling-after-all/?noredirect=on&utm_term=.f93c50e09d5b
Vultaggio, M. (2018, September 20). Kanye West slams Drake on Instagram for hinting he had sex with Kim Kardashian on ‘In My Feelings’. Retrieved from https://www.newsweek.com/kanye-west-drake-kim-kardashian-instagram-sunken-place-1131685
Willis, K. (2018, October 07). Kanye West quits social media (again), after Trump rant and inflammatory slavery remarks. Retrieved from https://www.usatoday.com/story/life/music/2018/10/07/kanye-west-quits-twitter-again-after-trump-rant-slavery-remarks/1559093002/